Biff America: It feels good when I stop
“This is not going to kill me.”
Those words were spoken by a 17-year-old girl named Cara, who was at that time one of the best, young cross-country ski racers in the country.
I was co-hosting a radio show out of a Nordic center outside of Fraser at least 10 years ago or more.
Cara was then a senior in high school, I think maybe from Alaska, who just medaled in the Junior Olympic Games. Now, granted, with the mental retention that of a rabid raccoon, I have forgotten much of the particulars. But what I do remember well was something her coach told me just before we went live.
He said there were other racers with as good technique as Cara and some as powerful a human engine, but he had never coached an athlete — man or woman — who had the ability to suffer as did that 17-year-old girl with green eyes and pig tails.
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The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
I remember that young gal seemed awkward being interviewed. She had difficulty making eye contact and kept touching her face. Over the years I’ve interviewed many professional athletes such as Olympians and some, like Cara, who were young with much potential. An observation I would make is that many younger gifted athletes are so driven and focused to succeed in their chosen sport that confidence and social skills can sometimes develop more slowly.
That seemed to be the case with that young gal. When questioned about her background and personal history, her answers were short and whispered. But when I asked her about her reported ability to suffer, she took on an intense and animated posture. She said, “Sometimes when I’m racing, everything hurts so bad — my legs, arms, back — my lungs are burning. I just want to slow down. When that happens, I remind myself, ‘Cara, this hurts, but this will not kill you.’ When it gets so painful I could cry, I tell myself that when the race is over it will feel so good. Because the more it hurts now, the better it will feel when I stop.” (I remind my wife the same thing when I dance at weddings.)
I’ve tried out Cara’s mind-over-misery mindset myself a few times while participating in the occasional local cross-country skiing or mountain biking races. It does not seem to work that way for me. When my legs, arms, back hurts and my lungs are burning, I tend to slow down to a point that I’m not moving.
But I have also been reminding myself of Cara’s mindset in regards to our current health crisis. Yes, this this pandemic sucks, but it won’t (doesn’t have to) kill us.
I hate the thought of having to wear a mask indoors in public places again. I hate the smell of my own breath and have both trouble hearing and connecting with my fellow humans when my nose and mouth is covered. I’m not sure if the hearing issue is all in my head or not, but the bad breath thing for sure isn’t. But for the good of all, especially me, I will wear that stupid mask indoors in public. It won’t kill me — but I guess it could if others don’t.
After getting vaccinated (and the fact that most of our community did, as well), just being able to smile at someone at the grocery store — friend or stranger — reminded me that I liked people more than I thought I did. We all rejoiced in that sweet spot between when most of us got the second shot and those variants reared their contagious heads and once again caused us to consider hugging as dangerous as wearing tight blue jeans to a yoga class.
That being said, for the good of the community, I will refrain from hugging my casual friends. It won’t kill me and they won’t miss it.
So here we are again. Hopefully this round of virus and inconvenience won’t be as bad as the earlier bouts. Hopefully those who visit our county going forward will be healthy, conscientious and vaccinated. Hopefully our town, county, state and nation will put any differences aside and band together enduring the substantial annoyances for the greater good.
As that young Nordic racer said, “The more it hurts now, the better it will feel when I stop.” Yes, this pandemic sucks, but if you are reading this, I’m guessing you have it better than most. To do the right thing won’t kill us, but to do otherwise might.
I wish us all good health and sweet breath.
Jeffrey Bergeron’s column “Biff America” publishes Mondays in the Summit Daily News. Bergeron has worked in TV and radio for more than 30 years, and his column can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He is the author of “Mind, Body, Soul.” Bergeron arrived in Breckenridge when there was plenty of parking and no stop lights. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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